Report Shows Philly’s Vacant Land Problem is Still a City Council Problem

A new data analysis of requests for city-owned vacant lots from Ryan Briggs at WHYY clearly shows that Philadelphia's vacant land problem is still very much a City Council problem, and that the Land Bank will never work while we still have Councilmanic Privilege over land sales. Continue reading

To Grow the Housing Trust Fund, Scale Up Council’s 2018 Affordable Housing Package

City Council is out with a new anti-poverty plan timed to the primary elections that you can think of as a sort of campaign platform for incumbents. There are several good ideas in there, but also some misguided ideas, particularly in the affordable housing plank, which unfortunately just reinforce an unhelpful narrative about housing that we were just starting to get away from with Council's much better affordable housing package that passed last Fall.   Continue reading

The 2019 Election is Becoming a Referendum on Councilmanic Prerogative

(Image: Provident Mutual Building) A bumper crop of recent reporting about City Council land scandals is conspiring to make the 2019 City Council elections into a welcome referendum on Councilmanic Prerogative—an unfortunate governance tradition that's landed past Council members in jail, and that stifles Philadelphia from doing any real planning. Continue reading

Kenney Reluctantly Replacing OPA Chief, But Will He Replace His Broken Assessment Approach?

With the steady drumbeat of criticism from property owners about the Office of Property Assessment's 2019 assessments, and City Council's recent decision not to reapprove OPA's chief assessor Michael Piper, the Kenney administration has announced they'll conduct a national search for someone new to lead the city's property assessment office. But just a day later, in a separate story about OPA's land valuation methods, Kenney spokesman Mike Dunn is still out there defending the biggest thing OPA is doing wrong.  Continue reading

John Fetterman: Do a Local Government Listening Tour Next

(Hitting the road to talk low-capacity municipal governments | Photo: Wolf for PA) New Lt. Governor John Fetterman is out on a listening tour to learn more about Pennsylvanians' attitudes toward recreational marijuana, in what feels like advance work for a legislative push from the Wolf administration on the topic. Continue reading

Ten Out of Ten District Council Members Have Challengers in 2019

(Committee of Seventy button wall | Photo: Jon Geeting) Philadelphia is coming off of two unusually competitive and high-turnout election cycles in 2017 and 2018, in the wake of Donald Trump's surprise 2016 victory, and while we're still too far from Election Day to know whether 2019 will fit the pattern, early signs point to another lively change election. Case in point: ten out of ten District Council members are facing a primary challenge. Continue reading

How Term Limits and Public Financing Would Make Council Elections More Competitive

Max Marin has an important piece up at Billy Penn on why it's so hard for anyone to run against sitting District Council incumbents under the current system, leaving Philadelphia with one of the oldest, most entrenched local legislatures of any large U.S. city.  Continue reading

The Math Behind Why Philly Isn't Seeing More Office Building Construction

(Photo: Jon Geeting) Philadelphia has been seeing a lot of new residential high-rise construction since the mid-2000's, but we haven't had as much new commercial office tower construction despite reasonably strong downtown job growth. Why is that the case? Glenn Blumenfeld has an interesting op-ed looking at some of the math behind it, and why we're unlikely to see an office tower boom in the near future.  Continue reading

Don't Bring the Broad Street Line South, Move the Navy Yard North

(The Stadium District has plenty of empty land and BSL access without any of the Navy Yard's transportation problems) Philadelphia's Navy Yard office district has seen incredible growth over the last 20 years, and while that's been great for the city's economy, the area suffers from major transportation problems that, taken together, conspire to choke off that growth: the lack of a subway connection to the Broad Street Line, and the Navy's ban on residential housing in the area. Fortunately, there's a vast expanse of open land in the stadium district just north of the Navy Yard that features none of these problems, and would make a better target for the Navy Yard's future expansion.  Continue reading

Germantown Neighbors Resort to Buying a Trash Truck Because Mayor Kenney Won't Sweep the Streets

(Street sweeping in Olney | Photo credit: Have you ever read one of those heartwarming stories about thousands of kind people on social media raising $100,000 through a GoFundMe page for a stranger's medical treatment, only to despair at what that says about the wider inhumanity of health care policy in the United States? That's the same feeling I got reading this story from Billy Penn's Michaela Winberg about two Germantown non-profits raising money from their neighbors to buy a trash truck and bootstrap their own miniature Streets Department.  Continue reading